VICENZA, Italy -- Recently, Public Health Activity-Italy Veterinary Corps officers Capt. Teresa Vaughn and Warrant Officer Abraham Montemayor traveled across the African continent in 14 days, conducting seven sanitation audits for bottled water listed in the DOD Worldwide Directory of Sanitary Approved Sources and one food and water risk assessment in support of U.S. Army Africa’s United Accord 2017 exercise.
Identification and approval of local sources for procurement on the continent supports local economies while decreasing cost to the DOD for shipping approved sustenance into areas of operation.
According to Lt. Col. Andrew Sims, the PHA-I commander, “The timeliness for audits was previously driven by a historically established schedule that did not optimize manpower and time.”
Sims directed his team to analyze the audit mission in Africa, consisting of 18 facilities in nine different countries, and identify areas to improve efficiency in manpower and time. Considering the locations and required audit frequencies for the sites, Montemayor proposed a strategic alignment of audits in Morocco, Uganda, Ghana, Niger and Ethiopia.
“The facilities are spread across an area that exceeds the (distance) from Los Angeles to New York by over 1000 miles,” Montemayor said. “If each audit was performed on individual missions, the audit mission in Africa would take 54 days to complete.”
The alignment reduced unit costs by 32 percent, a savings of $12,000, and manpower hours by 30 percent for successful completion of all audits and FWRA.
With PHA-I’s growing mission, critical conservation of manpower hours directly translates to an increased Veterinary Corps officers presence at veterinary treatment facilities in Europe, allowing them to focus on clinical proficiency and medical readiness. PHA-I is now successfully implementing this strategy throughout its commercial audit portfolio in Eastern and Western Europe, expanding the effort to identify cost savings and product-enhancing measures to best support service members abroad and at home.
The two week mission in Africa provided Vaughn and Montemayor continued exposure to similar facilities, expanding their knowledge of regulatory requirements for bottled water production and understanding production processes implemented in austere locations to meet those requirements. Montemayor hopes future predictability of the mission and utilization of two VCOs to perform audits will produce better quality audit reports and in turn, safer food for the warfighter.
Auditing in Africa delivers unique, complex challenges in comparison to audits performed in the United States or in Europe, due to significant differences in government monitoring and control of food processing facilities. Additionally, travel restrictions, cultural differences and country-specific threats vary and must be individually assessed for each area. Advanced, meticulous planning and coordination with U.S. Army Africa and U.S. embassies in the region were required to ensure mission success. The auditors spent several months analyzing and planning the operation, as any small change in itinerary or cancellation of flights resulted in substantial adjustments to the entire mission schedule.
According to Sims, increasing medical readiness and producing better quality audits requires careful planning and strong relationships with the DOD organizations they support and with the U.S. embassies.
“Building relationships and increasing skills proficiency are key enablers to supporting our customers and accomplishing our mission,” he said.